QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Book of Your Heart vs. The Book of Your Head

Write the book of your heart. We’ve all heard it, right? What it usually means is this: ignore the market and tell that story that’s inside of you. Write the book that won’t let you go, the one that drives you and inspires you, the one whose characters have come to be old friends. (Actually, make that family members, as they’ve been living with you for years.) We’ve heard it from agents, from editors, and from each other. Write the book of your heart. And far be it from me to tell you otherwise.

However, it is worth reiterating the following:

1-The BOYH is often your first book, with all the amateur trappings that come with first attempts.
2-Your love for the BOYH can blind you to its weaknesses and render you deaf to constructive criticism.
3-The BOYH isn’t always a fit for the market.  

The book of my heart got me an agent. It even got the attention of an editor at Berkley. What it didn’t get me was a publishing contract. It had charm. It was funny. But it wasn’t ready, plain and simple. So I went back to the drawing board, and basically wrote a more sophisticated version of the BOYH. And that didn’t sell, either.

It was then my agent put a question to me—what kind of writer do you want to be? The words appeared in my brain like a message from a Magic 8 Ball: a published one. She offered me the opportunity to write a cozy, so I did a genre hop from women’s fiction and landed squarely into to mystery territory.

Writing that first mystery began as an academic exercise; I approached it pragmatically. This is the book that will get me published, I told myself. This would be the book of my head, not my heart. (If the book of my heart was a love match, the book of my head was a marriage of convenience.) But as I got deeper into the story and more involved with the characters, a wondrous thing happened—I fell in love. I started that project by using my head, but ended up putting all my heart into it.                            

Don’t get me wrong; I still love my first book. It will always be the book of my heart. And I’ll get back to that book someday. Because eight years and four books later, I know exactly what it will take to make it better, maybe even publishable: a cold eye, a sure hand, a warm heart—and a cool head. 

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, will be released October 1. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean  in central New Jersey with her husband and two of her three sons.


ProvidenceMine said...

A very good commentary! I've never really thought about the BOYH and the BOYH in this manner. I've always heard about it in the context of a writer creating serious literary works for the heart and with no expectations of monetary gain, and then writing pulp(like Harlequin Romance, etc) on the side simply for the money.

Interesting perspective!

Anonymous said...

Strangely, the book of my heart wasn't my first book. It's my second. I don't know how that happened, either. This one's been rolling around inside me since I was 14. I just never got to it. I agree, though. I love my first book. I'll aways thinks it's fantastic--even when I know better :)

Rosie said...

As in my own experience, I've known a number of writers who began in one place and ended up in another. There are, in fact, a number of authors who write women's fiction that might be considered literary--and they started in romance. Ayelet Waldman, wife of Michael Chabon, is certainly a "literary" writer. She began her career writing cozy mysteries.

km, I love that the BOYH is actually your second book. Go you!

Unknown said...

Another great post, Rosie.

You've given me a lot to think about. As a member of the unpublished masses, I found this point sobering:

1-The BOYH is often your first book, with all the amateur trappings that come with first attempts.

I found myself looking back on what I wrote today, wondering what amateurish blunders I'd unwittingly made.

Anyway, thanks for another great post!